Friday, 31 May 2013

The Visitation

Today is the feast of the Visitation of our Lady, when we recall the story in Luke's gospel where Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth. Mary is greeted by Elizabeth as full of grace, and the child in Mary's womb (John the Baptist) leaps for joy. Mary sings her song, the Magnificat, which we use every day at evening prayer:

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children for ever.
There is a danger of spiritualising away Mary's words in the Magnificat, of thinking that all this talk of the lowly and the hungry is really about people who are inwardly humble, or who hunger for God (rather than for food*). No: the clear message of the prophets in the Old Testament is that our God is on the side of the poor and powerless, and this message finds an echo in Mary's song. In these times of economic crisis, it is a message we should take on board!

*Of course, it's a good thing to hunger for God - it's just that this isn't what this passage of scripture is talking about!

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